Friday, August 1, 2014

Senior Citizens' Guide to San Diego Comic-Con

This guide is for folks like me, who want to go to Comic-Con in San Diego but who are not as spry as they used to be,  and who are worried about keeping up with the youngsters. I would not recommend someone coming from out of town just to go to Comic-Con, but if you are in the area, it is certainly worth a visit. If you can't get tickets, you can always hang around in the area around the Convention Center, where there are usually things going on.

Here are some things to consider.

What to wear: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes,  take sunscreen and a hat, and pace yourself. If you are lucky enough to get a four-day ticket, you can look at the Con in 4- or 5-hour segments.

Getting tickets: Ah, here's the rub. The way things are now, the only way for most people to get tickets is through a computerized lottery system. First you have to sign up for a member ID, then some morning you will have to log in and sit in a virtual waiting room while, it seems, everyone but you gets a badge. If your computer is not up to date, or your reflexes slow, you might want to enlist the help of some young whippersnapper to do the actual logging in, but he or she will need to have all your information and your credit card number.

Another way to get in is to volunteer. You will have to register ahead of time, and there may even be raffles to get a volunteer number, but as far as I know, there is no age limit.

When to go: If this is your first Comic-Con, I would avoid joining the stampede of Preview Night. You could hang around and saunter in about an hour after the gates open, but being in the front of the line on Preview night is akin, in my opinion, to the experience of riding a trike in a buffalo stampede or being first in the line at the Junior Womens' League Rummage Sale. Next most frenetic day is Saturday, followed by Friday. Thursday and Sunday are probably the slowest days, athough early Thursday can be as chaotic as Preview Night.

How to get there: For me, part of the Comic-Con ritual is Taking the Trolley.   Don't try to get on at the six stops just before the Convention Center - the trolleys just get too crowded. Also, if you take the trolley home, you want to get on at the southernmost trolley stop. If you are rich, you could take a taxi or stay at the Marriott, but then you'd miss part of the experience.
A young fan on the trolley.
 Why Go?:  I go because I like to read comics  graphic novels, and this once-a-year event gives me a chance to go and nod to some of my favorite writers and artists, and to reconnect with other fans. In spite of the name "Comic-Con", though, Comic-Con is more a convention of popular culture - movies, television, science fiction, anime  - you name it. In fact, if you want some breathing space on the convention floor, just visit the section where the serious comic book sellers are set up.

Reasons to go to Comic-Con if you don't read comics:

1. To say you've been,
2. To satisfy your curiosity,
3. To pick up things to give as presents (My Little Pony was very popular this year.)
4. To see some 'A' and 'B' list celebrities, or talk to your favorite cartoonist or writer;
5. To see marvelous professional and amateur costumers;
6. To cross it off your bucket list.
7. To get together with friends who are into Comic-Con, too;
8. To practice patience;
9. To get some exercise;
10. To be able to tell yourself "I may be crazy, but I'm sane next to some of these people."

Photo ops abound

Young Jedi at the marvelous LEGO area
 What to do when you are there: DO NOT TRY TO DO EVERYTHING. The groundfloor of the Convention Center is huge! You could spend a day just going up and down the aisles looking at everything for sale or being advertised (I've done that). There are excellent panels, booths, movies, and other activities going on up the escalator from the main floor of the Convention Center, and spilling out to the nearby hotels and the area on the other side of the trolley tracks. Look at the programing schedule and maps ahead of time, and plan what you want to do.

What not to do: I recommend against A. Standing in line for almost anything,  unless it is something that you absolutely have to have or see. If it is a live presentation you may see it better on UTube later. If it is merchandise, you can probably buy it on EBAY later. B. Accepting all 'freebies'. One of the worst freebie is the Convention 'tote bag'. These things are huge and unwieldy. If you bring a big purse or sachel you can fold it up and carry it, and they do make great laundry bags, hose reel covers, and last-minute gift containers but on the Convention Floor they tend to impede traffic. If you really like them, pick up a few out of the trash while you are in the "Sails" area and then store them at baggage check for a modest fee. Most of the other 'freebies' are at the end of long lines, and some of the swag can be pretty neat, but always check to see what the line is for before wasting your time.

What to Eat While You Are There: The San Diego Convention Center has the worst convention food of any convention center I have ever visited. One exception is the small "Tides" restaurant on the north side of the Convention Center near the hallway. It is probably healthier and cheaper to make a sack lunch and bring it with you. There is also a "Con Suite" (This year it was upstairs at the Marriott) which usually has beverages and snacks, but check the hours before making the trudge over. If you have the time, some of the restaurants in the Gaslamp area have decent food, but be prepared for more lines.
Snacks from the Con Suite

Dr. Who, Tardis, and Dr. Who's companion.

Blathers, from the Animal Crossing Games
Where to Rest:

The majority of attendees just sit down on the carpeted areas in the hallways. As I am of an age where, although I can still get up off the ground it presents a spectacle-never-to-be-missed, that is not an option for me.

On the ground floor there are some limited chairs and tables near the Cafe Express locations, but they were always full when I went by. There is also some outdoor seating on the west side of the Convention Center, but be prepared for sun and stairs.

Further afield, I found places to sit inside the Marriott, and it seemed as if there were more options the further north I ventured. You can also sit inside the Con Suite if it is open, or go and watch a movie or anime presentation. I also saw several people toting portable seats.

Disabled Services also has a small rest area near their booth. These are very nice people (I've volunteered there myself in the past) and will go out of their way to help.


Hope this helps someone.  There are many good Convention Guides on the net, but I don't know of any others that are geared to older people.

Have fun!

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